More info

Beyond the Imperative of Pleasure

29 May 2023 · Pieter Bergé

More and more in the last few years, classical music has been increasingly promoted something purely to enjoy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying something in and of itself, but perhaps we might be just a tiny bit more ambitious. After all, music has more to offer, and people do too. Festival 20·21’s aim is to encourage that tiny bit of ambition – of course, keeping open ears and an open mind.

Classical music is often praised as a thing to take pleasure in. Concert announcements almost always exhort us to enjoy, to let ourselves be carried away, to be enraptured, to be immersed... the more passively, it seems, the better. ‘Enjoy the concert!’ has pretty much become the standard imperative, similar to the obligatory ‘Enjoy your meal!’ your server says as your plate is put in front of you.

To be honest, I personally find this ‘imperative of pleasure’ rather awkward. Not that I wouldn’t wish myself or others pleasure – far from it. But when I’m in the concert hall, I’m not primarily looking to enjoy myself. I’d rather have my mind and senses stimulated, I want to be confused and amazed, I want to be challenged in every aspect of my being – from passion to ration; I’d even like to be disturbed or overwhelmed, and above all I want to acquire more insight into the infinite variety of ways composers create meaning through their music. The concert hall is, accordingly, not a place of refuge allowing me a respite from the turbulence of the real world, but instead a place of direct con- frontation with this reality itself ‘through the world of music’. Pleasure is one valuable glimpse of reality, but only a glimpse.

The search for meaning has always been a crucial aspect of Festival 20·21, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. For us, music is an art form that interprets the world, and opens perspectives on how we relate to it, just like literature, cinema, architecture or the visual arts. Our task is to offer you these interpretations in the best possible conditions; our hope is that they will enrich your whole being, far beyond the limits of pleasure.

Festival 20·21 aims to fan the flames of curiosity. Each and every one of the concerts is conceived of as a musical adventure that stimulates, challenges, amazes and changes people.

Pieter Bergé

Share this event